Thomas Incoom was born and raised in Ghana and moved to the United States when he was 12 years old. He didn’t start playing football until his sophomore year of high school and actually started out as a kicker. Now, he’s one of the best edge rushers in the nation and is waiting to hear his name called during this week’s NFL Draft.
Incoom said soccer was the first sport he loved, a love he took from his father growing up in Ghana.
“Back in Ghana my dad used to play the neighborhood soccer and stuff like that,” Incoom said. “I used to play soccer too back in Ghana, just playing in the streets and that’s where the athleticism came about. So when I came to America I was a soccer player. I played for the high school team. I played all the way until the 11th grade when I started taking football serious, that’s when I stopped playing soccer.”
Incoom took to football quickly. He started out at kicker as a sophomore at Stone Mountain High School in Stone Mountain, Ga.
He began playing tight end as a junior and by the time high school was over, he had received an offer to play at Division II powerhouse Valdosta State.
The Blazers moved him to defensive end as a redshirt freshman.
From learning a new sport to changing positions at the collegiate level, Incoom’s story is marked by his ability to adapt quickly. It’s an ability he said comes from a willingness to learn.
“There’s always room to learn and there’s always room to improve and also having a winning attitude and having a good mindset approaching new stuff [has helped me],” he said.
The Blazers certainly had a winning attitude during Incoom’s redshirt freshman year in 2018. Valdosta State went undefeated and beat Ferris State 49-47 in the D-II National Championship game that year.
“I remember that like it was yesterday, man it was awesome,” Incoom said. “The crowd was going crazy and I was just looking [around] like ‘man, I just won my first ring!’ So that’s a moment I can never forget.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the NCAA D-II football season in 2020, Incoom entered the transfer portal. He didn’t wait long to make his decision.
“Central Michigan was the first team that gave me a call and right away I was like ‘let’s do it.’”
Incoom was making a leap from Division II to Division I, another transition that would require him to adapt quickly. But moving from Valdosta, Ga. to Mt. Pleasant, Mi. was a big adjustment in itself, especially when it came to the weather.
“I got me a couple of jackets and a couple of hoodies and I was ready to roll,” Incoom said with a smile. “I think the only thing I really had to get used to was driving in the snow. My coach around that time took me to the park and showed me how to drive all over again. So after that I was fine.”
Incoom played in all 12 games in his first season with CMU in 2021, making two starts and amassing 28 total tackles.
As a senior this past fall, he emerged as an absolute wrecking ball for the Chippewas. Incoom started every game and finished tied for third in the nation with 11.5 sacks.
He earned First Team All-MAC honors and was an Honorable Mention All-America by Phil Steele Magazine.
He said a relentless work ethic allowed him to take the leap he did between his junior and senior season.
“I love this game and I want to play on Sundays so why not invest all my time into it?” he said. “That’s what I did coming in off the season of my junior year, I just invested more time in the craft and polished the mistakes I made in my junior year.”
Incoom participated in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. He is widely projected to be a mid-round pick in this week’s NFL Draft.
He said he has no idea what emotions he expects to feel when the phone rings and his name is called.
“It’s going to mean a lot,” he said. “I can’t even describe what kind of feeling I’m going to have. Most people have been telling me you’re going to be crying, I’m like ‘man I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to be in shock like this really just happened?’ But right now I’m just soaking it in because I know I’m going to get emotional when my name is called. So after that it’s back to work.”
A high school kid from Ghana who had never played football is about to become an NFL draft pick just a few years later at a completely different position than the one he first learned. Thomas Incoom’s attitude and relentless work ethic have helped him adjust quickly to every new challenge thrown his way in this unlikely football journey.
Adjusting to the NFL will be just the next step.